Citizen-group Lawsuit Challenges Coast Guard Approval of LNG Project
Three citizen groups have sued the U.S. Coast Guard in federal court to challenge the agency’s April 24, 2009, approval of Oregon LNG’s proposal for a liquefied natural gas terminal on the Columbia River in Warrenton, Oregon, and the LNG tanker traffic that would result on the river.
According to AP Alert, Oregon LNG originally wanted to import LNG from abroad, but have changed the proposal to also include export of domestic gas supplies to the lucrative Asian market.
The environmental litigation was filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on October 22, 2012, by three citizen-group plaintiffs: Columbia Riverkeeper, Columbia-Pacific Common Sense and Wahkiakum Friends of the River.
The Daily Astorian reports that the suit raises concerns about environmental threats like explosions and that the terminal would take up almost 100 acres of public land. An LNG tanker is 20 stories in height and more than three football fields in length and about 125 of these tankers would make the inbound and outbound trip on the river annually. The Daily Astorian says further that a fully loaded tanker leaving the terminal would hold “a staggering eight percent of total U.S. daily gas consumption” and proposed connecting pipelines would cross “hundreds of miles” of “farms, forests, the Columbia River Estuary and residential properties.”
Reportedly, the suit alleges violations of federal law because the Coast Guard’s approval came before required Environmental Impact Statement preparation, without analyzing the harm to endangered species and lacking mandatory consultation with “fisheries agencies.”
In a related land use litigation matter, the Oregon Court of Appeals on October 24, 2012, affirmed a lower court dismissal of a request to compel Clatsop County to issue a permit that would have allowed construction of a natural gas pipeline to the Warrenton LNG terminal.
According to the California Energy Commission, LNG is natural gas in liquid form that it takes when cooled to extremely frigid temperatures. LNG is imported by mostly industrialized countries, including the United States, but no import terminals are yet located in any West Coast states.
LNG has the potential to ignite an immense, explosive fire if it leaked from a tanker onto river or ocean water. For this reason, an LNG tanker on the Columbia would need to have escorting safety vessels and a safety buffer around it, making safe transport even more complex.
Briefs from the plaintiffs are not due until January 2013. As the suit progresses, environmentalists and energy companies alike will watch with keen interest.
If you are concerned about the potential environmental harm from a proposed project or about the actions of an individual or company that may already have inflicted environmental damage, contact an experienced environmental attorney about your rights and potential legal remedies.